The 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday did not disappoint, as California Chrome took home a victory that moves the horse just one win away from the coveted Triple Crown.
Pegged as a massive favorite coming into Pimlico, the Kentucky Derby winner won his sixth straight race in a much more competitive fashion than his previous five. He had to hold off a late push from Ride On Curlin, but after that, there was no doubt that he would enter New York on June 7 with a chance at doing what no horse has done since Affirmed in 1978.
California Chrome's run in the Preakness was something to behold, but it wasn't easy and he was tested up until the final few lengths.
Here's a replay of the race:
Take a look at the final order of finish, as well as the prize money earnings for the top horses:
|1||3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||-|
|2||10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||1 1/2|
|3||8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||8|
|4||2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||8|
|5||4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||12 1/4|
|6||9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||14|
|7||1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||15 3/4|
|8||7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||15 3/4|
|9||5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||20 3/4|
|10||6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30 3/4|
|1||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn and Perry and Denise Martin||$900,000|
|2||Ride On Curlin||Daniel J. Dougherty||$300,000|
|3||Social Inclusion||Rontos Racing Stable Corp.||$165,000|
|4||General a Rod||Starlight Racing, Skychai Racing||$90,000|
|5||Ring Weekend||West Point Thoroughbreds||$45,000|
Opening up the race, California Chrome mirrored his early game plan from the Derby—stay near the front. Jockey Victor Espinoza rarely had the colt in the front spot through the first half of the race, but the group was never more than a nose behind the lead and in ideal position.
Still, with Pablo Del Monte edging him out from the gates and Ria Antonia also in front early on, California Chrome needed to keep up his quick pace to get in his usual No. 1 position entering the stretch and avoid falling back.
He did just that.
Taking advantage of a favorable spot, California Chrome hung around while some contenders fell off the pace. Then, Social Inclusion and Ride On Curlin—two hot names who were generating steam in the days leading up to Pimlico—started closing in, and it became apparent that California Chrome was in for a tough finish.
Instead of wilting, Espinoza demanded the best from California Chrome. He was able to slow down considerably late at the Kentucky Derby, but at the Preakness, that wasn't an option.
As dominating as the Derby winner looked two weeks back at Churchill Downs, there was some question as to whether he could keep his top speed through the final furlong—something he didn't do in the Triple Crown's first leg.
But on Saturday in Baltimore, he put those doubts to rest by flying past the field in the closing lengths and holding off some speedy contenders.
Considering the horse's previous two appearances, plus four lopsided wins before that, it's not surprising to see him favored to win the Triple Crown, as ESPN's RJ Bell reported:
California Chrome is a favorite to win the Triple Crown (-130 at Sportsbook.ag) - rest of Belmont field +100— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) May 17, 2014
Here's the provisional group of horses he's likely to face in New York, per Danonymous Racing:
There's no telling what the Belmont Stakes holds for California Chrome, especially when recent history tells us winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown is more of a tease than anything. California Chrome is the 13th horse to win both the Derby and the Preakness since 1978, and the previous 12 failed to win at Belmont.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
However, it's tough for anyone who has followed California Chrome's last few months to see a name on the list of contenders that could really make the favorite sweat. Six of them didn't make any real trouble for California Chrome at the Derby, and three of them lost at the Preakness.
According to Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman, trainer Art Sherman is feeling confident in California Chrome's chances:
Sherman increasingly confident CC can pull off Triple Crown: "I think I've got the right horse...they better have their running shoes on."— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 18, 2014
Fatigue is the only other big question mark for Sherman's horse, and that's not even much of one after California Chrome's performance on two weeks' rest Saturday. Three weeks separate the Preakness from Belmont, so the step up in distance (1 1/2 miles) will be combated with an extra week of rest and preparation.
History tells the world of horse racing to temper their expectations a bit for a Triple Crown in the coming weeks, but California Chrome's track record says otherwise.
At the very least, one or the other will be proved true at Belmont on June 7.
Information courtesy Preakness.com unless otherwise stated